It was arguably the most exciting cutting competition in last year's Augusta Futurity.
Now, the Western Horseman Cup finals are back on a new night, moving from Thursday night to a more glamorous Friday evening spot in the show.
"We gave it a more prominent night because it is such a great event," show manager Pete May said. "Over time, that may be the premier event we have here."
The Western Horseman Cup finals begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 28, at Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center. The top 15 Open 4-year-old horses and top 15 non-professional riders will compete in the one go-round championship for a share of the $250,000 purse.
Cutters qualified for a spot in the finals through a season-long competition, which awarded points at nearly 50 NCHA-sanctioned cutting shows throughout 2004.
May compared the event to NASCAR.
"I think the Western Horseman Cup is cutting's answer to the Nextel Cup," he said. "It's just too new to have any tradition."
Tag Rice and Chiquita Pistol and Kyle Manion and Ricochet Pep were the first pair of riders and horses to have their names inscribed on a 3-foot-tall permanent trophy held on display in the National Cutting Horse Association headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.
Rice came within a point of tying the arena record, marking 230 to win the open finals by five. Rice earned $50,000 - the most money ever awarded to achampion in Augusta Futurity history.
"It's fun to win any cutting when all the best cutters in the world are here with the best horses," Rice said.
Manion rode in the unenviable next-to-last position in the non-pro finals, but it didn't affect him or his gelding. The two posted 225.5 to nip Mary Ann Rapp and TM Quiver by a point. Manion took home $30,001.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or email@example.com.
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